A group of former campaign staffers for Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pennsylvania) is calling for the lawmaker, who presented himself as a progressive on the campaign trail, to reverse course on his call for violence against Palestinians in Gaza last week.
As first reported by The Intercept, 16 former campaign staffers have anonymously signed an open letter calling on Fetterman to change his stance on Israel’s war, demanding a ceasefire and de-escalation, and condemning his staunch support of Israel as it has forcibly displaced 1.4 million Gazans and rained thousands of bombs down on the area.
“Watching the United States military apparatus beat the drum for war — promising the Israeli government unconditional weapons support, a blank check for more destruction that will lead to the killing of more innocent Israelis and Palestinians including children — has been heart wrenching,” the staffers, who dubbed themselves “Fetterman Alumni for Peace,” wrote. “Watching you lead that charge has felt like a gutting betrayal.”
They said that they felt Fetterman was not living up to his own purported values of fighting for oppressed people by backing the war.
“On the trail, your overarching promise was to ‘Forgotten Communities’ – people and places that get overlooked, written off, and left behind. You can’t be a champion of forgotten communities if you cheerlead this war and the consequent destruction of Palestinian communities at home and abroad,” the group said. “We are speaking out now because we played important roles in electing you. We cannot in good conscience stay silent at this moment.”
Last week, Fetterman wrote on social media that he rejects calls for a ceasefire after progressive House lawmakers introduced a resolution demanding an end to the violence in Gaza. This is in line with statements he has made supporting Israel on the campaign trail.
“Now is not the time to talk about a ceasefire. We must support Israel in efforts to eliminate the Hamas terrorists who slaughtered innocent men, women, and children,” Fetterman said last Wednesday. “Hamas does not want peace, they want to destroy Israel. We can talk about a ceasefire after Hamas is neutralized.”
Backlash swiftly ensued from progressives, but Fetterman’s team doubled down. When asked on social media whether or not Fetterman would join calls for a ceasefire the day after Fetterman’s post, Chief of Staff Adam Jentleson simply responded “no.” Jentleson went on to criticize congressional staffers who last week urged their bosses to support a ceasefire. “[T]he thing about being a staffer is that no one elected you to represent them,” Jentleson wrote.
The scuffle comes amid a larger movement by activists and current staffers to urge lawmakers to support a ceasefire as public opinion appears to support the idea of a ceasefire despite the vast majority of members of Congress supporting Israel as it carries out ethnic cleansing in Gaza.
Last week, a group of over 400 staffers signed onto a letter asking the members of Congress that they work for to demand peace, writing, “Millions of lives hang in the balance, including the 2.3 million civilians — half of whom are children — in Gaza, civilians in Israel, and Jews and Muslims around the world.”
Meanwhile, activists are rising up in droves. Activists occupied the office of another seemingly center-left politician, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California), urging him to join legislation put forward by progressives in Congress calling for a ceasefire last week. And Jewish activists staged a major protest, ending with 500 of them being arrested in the Capitol, with Jewish Voice for Peace saying that over 10,000 demonstrators participated.
Other groups are also organizing pressure campaigns on politicians. A group of over 1,500 social workers sent a letter to the Biden administration on Tuesday calling on officials to end the U.S.’s support for Israeli forces as the administration has sought to increase arms sales and support to Israel amid its current violent campaign.
“Today we call for an end to Israel’s settler colonial, genocidal violence against the Palestinians, as well as call for an end to the occupation,” the social workers wrote. “The solution to the violence is not more violence, it is not more military aid to Israel — it is an end to the occupation. We demand that the United States immediately stop supporting and sustaining Israel’s apartheid regime. “
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